Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Apps for Spanish Class

I just learned that the Draw Something App for iPhone and iPad is now available in Spanish and 12 other languages.  How cool is that!

One way to use this is to have my students set this App to Spanish and play it with other students in the class, outside of school.  Maybe even throw in some extra credit points if they reach a certain number of plays and then show it to me when they reach that number.

An even better way to involve the students with the App is to find another class of students learning Spanish, either in the U.S. or in another country, and partner my students up with them...OR...find a class in a Spanish country to match my students to their students, or simply play as a whole class.  If I can find a class from a Spanish country that is learning English, maybe we could alternate playing the game in Spanish and English.

I love when the creators of the Apps make them available in other languages!

If you are reading this blog and are interested in starting some type of collaboration with this App, please post a comment below or send me an e-mail @

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Reading Experiment

I'm conducting a very informal reading experiment this summer with my daughter.  She finished Spanish 1 in June and she will have Spanish 2 in the fall.  I asked her a few days ago if she wanted to read a Spanish book with me and she consented.

I chose Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto by Mira Canion and Carol Gaab as our first book.  I read a paragraph or two in Spanish and then she reads the same paragraph in English.  When she comes across a word that she doesn't know at first sight, I allow her time to figure out the word from context.  If she doesn't know it, I tell her the English translation and she continues with the sentence.  

Some days I need to ask her a few times before she is ready to read and today was one of those days.  She agreed and we started reading the 4th chapter of Piratas.  It was interesting today because about half way through the chapter, I realized that her reading was notably better than it had been in the previous three chapters.  By the 4th chapter the characters are established and from her reading she obviously has become accustomed to the authors' writing styles.  I noticed that she is improving on small things like possessive structures (written without the apostrophe 's as in English), the "le" that is used in phrases like "le grita" or "le pregunta", and shows little or no hesitation reading the different forms (nosotros, tú, yo, etc.) of the verbs.  

We will finish this book in 5 days or less and then we'll read the present tense version of El Nuevo Houdini.  After we finish Houdini, I'll ask her to choose between Noches misteriosas en Granda or Robo en la nocheWhen we move onto books that include the past tenses, I'm not planning on giving her any grammatical explanations unless she wants clarification as she is reading.  My guess is that she'll be able to translate it correctly simply from seeing it in context.  Time will tell.

I hope she continues to enjoy the reading time we have together.  One benefit is that when she starts Spanish 2 this fall, she'll have a larger vocabulary and better understanding of Spanish.  More importantly, I'm able to spend quality time with my teen-age daughter by reading together, just like we used to do when she was a little girl, but this time it's in Spanish.  Good times!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spanish 1 Curriculum

A task that I'm working on this month is to re-write the curriculum for Spanish 1 and 2.  Our current curriculum is written in LFS (Learning Focused Schools) format and we have permission to write the curriculum to make it more TPRS-friendly = more language acquisition friendly!

My goal in writing the curriculum is to have a list of certain words that all Spanish 1 students will know by the end of the school year.  Since it probably is too daunting of a task to teach from only a list of words, I broke it down into a Curriculum Matrix (CM) described below.  FYI - We have two semesters/year.  The classes in each semester are 70 minutes for 90 days.

- There are 6-8 days of TPR, with a list verbs and misc. vocab. to be taught in those days

- There are 3 sections of TPRS with focus words.  
During the 1st section of TPRS, the focus is solely on the él/ella form with the tú and ellos/ellas forms appearing if/when needed in the story.  
In the 2nd section of TPRS, the tú and ellos/ellas forms are stressed more, and the yo form is also introduced in stories with dialogue.  
In the final section of TPRS, the nosotros/nosotras forms will be stressed. So by the third section, a story could easily have ALL the different subject pronouns and accompanying forms of the verbs.  
I'm not sure what to do about the vosotros/vosotras form in the CM.  I was the only teacher at my school that taught this form because it is in literature, books, a video series, and songs from Spain that I use in Spanish 3 and higher so why ignore it in Spanish 1 & 2?  That never made sense to me, but I may be in the minority.

- List of words to add into stories to cover additional vocabulary (mostly nouns and adjectives).    As we (any teacher using TPRS with Spanish 1 this year) go through the semester, we will check off the words that the students have acquired (it was used as a focus word) and those they are familiar with.  We'll have to determine a way to differentiate between the two.

- Grammar Box that will be covered with pop-up grammar and in context in stories; not in the traditional way with a worksheets and drills. 

- Cognate List mostly from our old textbook + I'll attach lists from websites to encourage teachers to use them when needed.

- List of Basic Words like Señor, gracias, etc. that students already know or will pick up within a short period of time that are not formally included/written in the 3 TPRS sections even though they will be used in many of the stories.

- Readers for Spanish 1.  Teachers will choose 2 of the books listed to complete in Spanish 1; 3 if there is time.  

Items still needed:
- Culture Items. There will be cultural information that we agree to cover in this first level either from the Spanish readers, or by incorporating that information in our stories.  (i.e. the importance of the family unit, the Plaza Mayor, meal times, foods, etc.) 
- Agreed amount of time for FVR and/or "Kindergarten Day" 
- List of songs.

I've embedded my second draft below. (updated 6/19/12)  It is still a work in progress. When I go to the NTPRS conference, I'd like to get some feedback on it and tweak it, or do a major overhaul, whatever is needed. You should start on the 2nd page because for some reason it wouldn't let me reorder the pages.  

Please feel free to send me your suggestions, comments, and advice on the above draft. I welcome your input.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Reading & Podcasts - My Summer Personal Development Plan

"Picking up word meaning by reading is 10 times faster than intensive vocabulary instruction."  - Stephen Krashen, The Power of Reading.

"Incidental learning of words during reading may be the easiest and single most powerful means of promoting large-scale vocabulary growth." - W.W. Nagy & P.A. Herdman

"Teaching vocabulary lists is inefficient - the time is better spent reading alone." - Stephen Krashen.  

(quotes about reading listed in Bryce Hedstrom's book Stuff for Spanish Class)

The more I read about language acquisition in a second language, the more I understand the importance of reading. The past school year was the first year that I had a two times a week planned SSR time for my Spanish classes and it was, hands down, a success.  I discussed SSR with my students on the last day of school and the overwhelming response was that they enjoyed it and felt it was beneficial to them.  Many said they think it should be at least 3 times a week.  

So now that it is summer and I have some spare time, I followed the advice that I give to my students and went to the Community Library and checked out three Spanish books for some easy summer reading.  I"ll start with the James Patterson book, Los Puentes de Londres" and Sandra Cisnero's La Casa en Mango Street (sometimes I have the habit of reading two books at the same time). Then, if I haven't obtained En Llamas yet, the second book in the Hunger Game Series, I'll start the Twilight Saga books.  One of my all-time favorite books is El Alquimista by Paulo Coehlo and I'm considering reading that again, just for fun, and then possibly using it in Spanish 5 in the future.

Our community has a wonderful library that has a huge selection of Spanish books.  There are children's picture books, young readers, classics, novels, biographies, fiction and non-fiction, how to books, magazines, DVDs, videos, audio books, encyclopedias, science books, cookbooks - just about any type of reading you can do in English is available in Spanish.  The librarian that is in charge of the Spanish section is open to suggestions on what types of books to add to the collection.  Just recently she went through the books that were not checked out very much and offered them to me instead of discarding them.  I now have even more books for my class library to use for SSR time.  

Another thing I've added to my summer personal development plan is listening to podcasts in Spanish.  I usually walk a minimum of 3.5 miles each day.  If I don't have a walking companion, I take my iPod and listen to Spanish podcasts that I've downloaded so I can multitask and take advantage of the time while I'm walking.  I find it beneficial to listen to the same podcasts several times to pick up on words or phrases that I may have missed the first time; another reminder to me that I have to go S-L-O-W when I'm telling stories and talking to my students in Spanish.  

If you have a favorite Spanish book that you'd like to share with me or podcasts that you like to listen to personally or use in class, I'd be interested in hearing about them - so please feel free to share them.  :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Videos as part of the Final

Since I've used videos throughout the semester for discussions in the TL, I wanted to carry that format through in the final exam.  
My Spanish 4 curriculum includes the subjunctive and to test them on that, I used the video "Defective Detective".  They watched the video, twice, and then had to write 6 sentences giving reactions/feelings on how they felt or how a character in the video felt.  In one of the sentences, they needed to say someone was sure or certain about something to show me that they knew NOT to use the subjunctive with those expressions.

Example for "Defective Detective":
- El hombre tenía miedo que alguien atacara a su vecina.
- Me sorprende que haya tanta violencia en el resto del apartamento.
- A la anciana no le gustaba que un ratón estuviera en su cocina. 
- Es cierto que el dectective quiere proteger a su vecina.

LINK to video - CLICK HERE

Since my juniors and sophomores took their final at a different time then the seniors, when I showed the video to the seniors, the others wrote the sentences as a practice. I used a commercial for the subjunctive part of their final for the juniors and seniors. (YouTube is an unlimited resource!) 

I also used this video as part of the final for my Spanish 5 class.  Instead of writing sentences with the subjunctive, their task was to simply retell what happened in the video (in written format). If they didn't know a word they used circumlocution to get their point across.  

For the verbal part of the Spanish 4 final, I sent the students to the hall, two at a time, with either my iPad or my iPhone.  They each had different sets of questions that they had not seen before they left the class.  Then I gave them 5 minutes to answer any 3 of the 5 questions in Spanish.  They used the app. QuickVoice to record their answers.  Overall I was pleased with how well they did and how they were able to self-correct their mistakes. 

These type of finals show me the students' abilities 10 times better than any traditional grammar based test could.